On a sunny Saturday afternoon, the Ottawa Redblacks channeled their inner Renegades, suiting up and playing like the last incarnation of pro football in Ottawa, losing to Montreal 36-19.
Here are all my thoughts on the game:
1) The blame for the Redblacks’ two game losing streak can’t be laid entirely on Dominique Davis, but for Ottawa to get back into the win column, he needs to be better. Davis completed 62 per cent of his passes, spreading the ball around to seven different receivers, throwing for 268 yards and an interception.
Unlike last week, Davis did a good job using his legs when the pocket broke down; to buy time for his receivers to get open or to scramble for a positive gain. Davis finished the night with 21 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Although the calls for Jonathan Jennings will grow louder following another loss, Davis should not be benched. Given his lack of experience, growing pains are to be expected. Still, he can’t be forcing throws into coverage and his touchdown to interception ratio (three to seven) must improve.
2) Is it too early to wonder if Ottawa’s “by-committee” offence is backfiring? Despite winding up with 24 fist downs, Ottawa’s play-calling was vanilla and the offence struggled to sustain drives. The Redblacks averaged a paltry 4.5 yards per first down play and converted 15-of-28 (54 per cent) second down opportunities.
Of the Redblacks’ fourteen offensive possessions, only four resulted in scoring plays. Eight drives gained less than 20 yards. One area they did perform well in was the red zone, going 2-for-3.
3) There is no reason that John Crockett should not be Ottawa’s starting running back going forward. He’s explosive, shifty and simply makes things happen. Crockett split touches with Mossis Madu against the Alouettes, averaging 7.8 yards per carry to Madu’s 4.3. Crockett busted off two runs of 10-plus yards to Madu’s one and finished the night with 62 yards to Madu’s 47, despite Madu getting three more carries (11 to 8). If the Redblacks are looking to improve their offence (and they should be), putting the ball in Crockett’s hands more often is an easy first step.
4) Good to see Brad Sinopoli (somewhat) more involved in the offence. He finished the night with only four catches but was targeted seven times. After watching him dominate on second down the past few seasons, it’s odd not to see him fed the ball. The trick for Davis is to take advantage of Sinopoli’s ability to quickly create separation without forcing the ball to him, as was the case on the interception.
Well, that's one way to start a game!
Tommie Campbell intercepts Dominique Davis and that leads to a @MTLAlouettes FG! #CFLGameDay
MTL 3 | OTT 0 pic.twitter.com/U8F4mTfeBN
— CFL (@CFL) July 13, 2019
5) As for the rest of the receiving corps, R.J. Harris had a game-high six receptions for 89 yards but also had a second quarter fumble that put points on the board for Montreal. Caleb Holley made five receptions and averaged 9.8 yards per catch. Julian Feoli-Gudino had four catches for 53 yards and Dominique Rhymes turned four targets into a single 15-yard reception.
6) Another soft night for Noel Thorpe’s defence. The unit not only failed to generate a turnover, but also gave up 327 yards in the air, 147 on the ground and allowed Montreal to average 10 yards per first down play. Of Montreal’s 12 offensive possessions, seven ended in points and an eighth resulted in a missed field goal.
Michael Klassen, Anthony Cioffi and Randall Evans led the way with five tackles apiece. Speaking of Evans, he had a night to forget. Starting in place of Jonathan Rose, Evans was torched a few times, including a 75-yard touchdown bomb early in the third quarter.
Vernon Adams Jr. (@bigplay_va) spots @QuanBray WIDE OPEN for a 75-yard TOUCHDOWN give the @MTLAlouettes a 15-12 lead!#CFLGameDay pic.twitter.com/hIiK5ozTj9
— CFL on TSN (@CFLonTSN) July 13, 2019
7) Thanks to connecting on kicks from the 24- and 50-yard line, Lewis Ward’s historic streak continues, rising to 61 straight kicks made. The man is money but don’t overlook long snapper Louis-Philippe Bourassa, who has been just as reliable.
8) R.J. Harris is a solid receiver, but he’s not the answer for the return game. Harris averaged 4.5 yards per punt return and 17.2 yards per kickoff. The sooner DeVonte Dedmon is healthy, the better.
9) Not sure who had the bright idea to mix and match Ottawa’s home and away uniforms, but count me among those who thought the black jersey, white pants, red socks combo was terrible. Not only did it drudge up memories of the Renegades getting blown out repeatedly, the contrast was just too jarring. Hopefully that set up never sees the light of day again.
10) For the second straight game, TD Place was thousands of seats short of a sell out. 21,536 isn’t impressive, but when you take into account that Hope Beach Volleyball was going on, and that Snoop Dogg and the Wu-Tang Clan were playing at Bluesfest, that number isn’t quite so bad.
11) With the loss, Ottawa falls to 2-2 on the season and is now two wins back of Hamilton for the division lead. It’s no mystery as to why the Redblacks are in the midst of a losing streak. They’re not winning the turnover battle, they’re struggling to find their identity as an offence and the normally stout veteran defence has sprung a leak. It’s too soon to hit the panic button, but with Winnipeg and Calgary looming, things may get worse before they get better.